Saturday, January 8, 2011

Advocating or educating?

I have done a great deal of writing about Michigan's HIV disclosure law and specifically how it is putting HIV positive people into suspect felony classes merely because of their HIV status. I have also spoken at length about living with HIV and preventing HIV in this modern era. The speech I posted earlier from the 2009 Pride March is one such example.

But true to the Yiddish proverb: For the Truth you get beat up -- I have taken a lot of heat from some in the community for those stories.

Some have gone so far as to allege I am advocating for HIV positives not to disclose their status, which could not be further from the truth. Instead, I believe that disclosure is a persona issue, not a criminal issue, and using finite and dwindling police resources to investigate and prosecute cases which ultimately rely on (1) the jury's ignorance about HIV and (2) a he said/she said scenario. That is a use of finite resources better directed at armed robbery suspects, domestic violence cases, and other violent cases.

There is room, I believe, in traditional law to prosecute those accused of serial exposures. But in order to do that, a person must not be in treatment and must have a measurable viral load, which thus makes them truly infectious.

Unfortunately our laws are from a time when HIV was a death sentence and they reflect they hysteria and misunderstandings about HIV which continue to this day. Sadly, disclosure of an HIV status can lead to rejection, violence and harassment. And placing the disclosure duty on those with HIV is an unfair pressure. If state medical officials were following the federal CDC recommendation of being tested at least annually. Until such time as HIV testing is routine, and violence and fear do not prevail in disclosure these laws are a danger to the community. Studies show that the laws actually prevent persons from being tested and lead to false assumptions during sexual encounters.

Should HIV positives disclose their status? Absolutely.

Should HIV negatives disclose their status? Absolutely.

Should partners exchange recent HIV tests to show their status? Absolutely.

Are all those happening? Sadly, no.

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